21 Jul OPPOSITION CALLS FOR URGENT REVIEW OF BAUXITE POLICIES
Kingston, Jamaica July 19, 2017: Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips is calling for a review of policies governing the bauxite industry and in particular the bauxite levy.
Addressing the nation’s Parliament in Gordon House on Tuesday, during an intense debate on the Bauxite (Production Levy) Act Withdrawal Order, Dr. Phillips emphasised the Opposition’s concerns about the uncertainty surrounding the status of the bauxite levy. He noted that inflows from the levy were greatly reduced and that most companies are not now paying the levy and at the same time, communities in the bauxite area continue to suffer the disruptive effects of mining.
While not opposing the Withdrawal Order which will extract funds for budgetary support and debt payment, Dr. Phillips insisted that Parliament must examine future bauxite policies, but said these policies must be guided by the cost/benefit analysis of mining and revenues to be derived.
He said that communities affected by mining were expected to benefit from the industry, be it through schools or roads or community centre developments.
“Communities have not received enough for the environmental damage that they have suffered over the years. What proportion of this money will go to these communities?What then can the bauxite producing areas expect to come from the continuing mining in their communities? Are we satisfied that given the change in the global marketplace, there is a future in this industry? ”
These are some of the questions raised by the Opposition Leader as he pointed out that the ongoing conflict with the contemplated Cockpit Country boundaries must be understood in a context where a depleting resource is exploited for minimal benefit because little or no levy is paid.
The country has to decide what price we are willing to pay and at what cost, if we are going to allow mining. This is our yard, our country, our nation and we have to decide what we will allow.” Phillips declared.
Mean while, the Opposition spokesman on energy and mining, Phillip Paulwell added his voice to the debate with the call for open and frank discussions on the industry as there is some ambivalence in some communities about mining and the real benefits.
Central Manchester MP Peter Bunting, who is also calling for a study of the sector, said the constituency has suffered a lot from mining and processing and has the legacy of the Mud Lake and there is uncertainty if the benefits outweigh the costs in today’s world.
“We should look at some of the issues such as the extent to which the restored mined out lands have been put to any agricultural purpose.” Bunting said.
Mr. Bunting said there are real case studies of companies going bankrupt or ceasing operations in Jamaica, with years of obligations outstanding.
“The number of jobs for Jamaicans has dwindled as companies are bringing in their own labour; Jamaica has nothing to gain if the bauxite companies close down and leave overnight. Funds for restoration, if the companies go bankrupt or if they leave overnight, should be put in an escrow account in advance, so that Jamaica does not suffer because of this. Jamaica must ask for concession in the same way these companies ask for concession when they come here.” Bunting said
Michael Stewart, the Member of Parliament of South Manchester said that there are areas in his constituency where there has been significant mining operations and no commiserate development from the industry.